Mike D’Antoni’s Ultimate Parting Shot Would Be Strong Finish

It’s the tail end of a disastrous season, and Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni is trying for the last laugh—playing the spoiler and ruining other teams’ playoff dreams.

By picking up a few wins, however, the rebuilding Lakers may be torpedoing their own chances for a top draft pick.

That’s not the beleaguered coach’s concern. His rotations may leave observers scratching their heads, but he’s certainly not playing to lose. Now in his second, and perhaps last, season with the Lakers, the small-ball innovator will either stay or go on his own terms—encouraging his players to space the floor and jack up shots at will.

Per Jovan Buha for ESPN Los Angeles, D’Antoni recently reveled in a few wins after so many losses: 

We want everybody to hate us by the end of the year. We did get New York and now we’re trying to get Phoenix and then we’ll try to give them a favor by getting Portland. We’ll have our chances, so hopefully we can do that.

As it turned out, they upset Phoenix on Sunday, 115-99, on the back of Chris Kaman, who had his best game of the season with 27 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists. On Tuesday, against the Portland Trail Blazers, D’Antoni took an uncharacteristic big-man plunge, starting Kaman alongside Pau Gasol, who was returning after a bout of vertigo.

The experiment didn’t work—although the Lakers were right in the game as late as the third quarter. The two veteran 7-footers might not have been a good pairing, but Nick Young was letting it rain with 40 points. At one point in the second quarter, Young was 8-of-8. By the end of the game he was 15-of-26.

Los Angeles wound up losing, 124-112.

On Wednesday, the motley Purple and Gold headed up to Sleep Train Arena on a back-to-back, playing the Sacramento Kings. It was an unlikely war betwe...

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